Halifax's audit and finance committee voted on Wednesday to top up the budget for Open Streets events to $25,000, even though its members are concerned about the financial impact of provincial rules.
Open Streets events have taken place in Halifax and Dartmouth neighborhoods where part of a street is closed to traffic and pedestrians take over a block to eat, listen to music and shop.
"In a post-COVID time we need to help out our businesses and residents in every way possible and this is a huge community-building effort," said Coun. Shawn Cleary. "It's amazing to see kids doing chalk art and people eating souvlaki on the curb."
Cleary pointed out that most of the money given to organizers comes back to the municipality in the form of payments for police officers stationed at the street barricades. HRM Special Events said other cities such as Toronto and Ottawa are allowed to use trained traffic control people in lieu of the police.
"The Motor Vehicle Act says you have to have cops," said Cleary. "If we had a choice we wouldn't be doing it this way, but the province doesn't allow us."
Halifax asked for changes to the provincial rules in 2016 and the Motor Vehicle Act is now being updated, but so far the requirement for police officers at street barricades remains in place.
"You want to talk about defunding police?" said Coun David Hendsbee. "We need to get the authority to have our own transportation crews."
Cleary said he remains hopeful that changes are still possible since the new Traffic Safety Act has not yet been proclaimed.
Mayor Mike Savage agreed that the issue should continue to be raised with the provincial officials.
"I think we need to keep pushing and I encourage council to do that," said Savage.
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